Quito city is where the majority of visitors to Ecuador begin and end their trip. The city's historical centre, which is proudly classed as one of the world's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is one of the most visited Quito attractions.
Quito - the name itself resonates with wonder and romance - is regarded as the most beautiful and stylish city in the Andes. As you descend towards the airport, your first glance from the air reveals an urbanised, South American Shangri-La stretching along a high valley beneath a string of snow capped mountains. Journeying into town from the airport, you pass the steel-and-glass office blocks and luxury hotels of the new town.
Further south, hidden away in the old part of the city is a world of cobbled streets, ornate baroque churches, colonial-style mansions with tiled roofs, and quiet courtyards with tinkling fountains.
Together the old and new form a fast-growing, modern metropolis woven into the fabric of an old Spanish colonial town.
Aside from its high altitude, the most striking geographical feature of Quito is the length of the city and its bottleneck narrowness. From north to south it stretches some 30km, yet it is only three to five kilometres wide. This narrow strip of urbanised land is wedged between the steep slopes of Mount Pichincha to the west, and a deep canyon formed by the river Machangara to the east.